Category Archives: Open Web

The Open Web in 2010

Is there anything else to do by the end of the year than looking back and review the past year? So let’s have a quick look at what was happening in 2010 regarding the open web. The review is probably incomplete but hopefully I didn’t miss an important event.

Google Buzz

The year really kicked off in February with the launch of Google Buzz. It’s been the first mainstream consumer product that relied heavily on a number of open web standards.

Google Buzz Web Standards

OneSocialWeb

Surprising to many people, Vodafone Group Research and Development developed a prototype of a federated social network called OneSocialWeb. It is built on XMPP, which is mostly known as an instant messaging protocol. OneSocialWeb is also using a variety of open web standards like Portable Contacts for profile information, XFN for friends, of course, and Activity Streams for a news feed.

Unfortunately, it’s been rather silent about OneSocialWeb in recent months.

OExchange

The OExchange protocol for sharing any URL based content with a variety of services has gained some more popularity among web services. It’s supported by such diverse companies as LinkedIn, Digg, Instapaper, Posterous, AddThis, and Yiid. Even German social networks studiVZ (which also adopted XMPP for its messaging system) and Xing started supporting it in 2010.

OStatus

This is a rather new player in the open web world. OStatus is an open standard for distributed status updates. It leverages standards like Activity Streams, OpenID, the Salmon protocol, Webfinger, and PubSubHubbub. Though as far as I know, it is only implemented on StatusNet sites currently. That’s obvious because it was developed there.

PubSubHubbub

This is probably the open standard which has seen the most widespread adoption in 2010. By now, PubSubHubbub is implemented at WordPress.com, LiveJournal, Posterous, Tumblr, Blogger, Netvibes, Google Reader, Feedburner, and many more. So basically, the entire blogging and RSS/Atom environment is PubSubHubbub enabled. Great!

DataPortability Project

The DataPortability project released its Portability Policy in June. This policy can help web services making their Terms of Service more understandable in terms of data portability aspects. An early adopter of this policy is startup Shwowp. Hopefully, more companies will adopt this policy; a policy generator is also available.

Windows Live Messenger Connect

Microsoft surprised many people when launching Windows Live Messenger Connect. It’s a set of APIs that enable Windows Messenger and Hotmail users to communicate and connect with users on other sites. Standards used include Portable Contacts, OAuth WRAP, Activity Streams and OData. Many open standards for a company which had been notorious for using proprietary code so far. :)

Random Mentions

XAuth was launched to recognize service providers of authenticated users and then minimize login or sharing options for those users.

AOL implemented Webfinger on its website.

Sadly, Cliqset closed shop.

Google released an OpenID sample store and published relevant documentation for it.

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The Open Web is Dead

Ode To Twitter

Yep, that’s right. Let’s forget all the talk about the open web. This weekend made me realize that the achievements of the last few years were in vain.

The next two quotes are from blog posts on Facebook‘s recent changes in privacy settings and the invention of the Open Graph protocol and the subsequent discussions about it (emphases by me).

Stowe Boyd:

Facebook’s shifting policy from private as default to public as default is a reflection of the open web. Twitter, in particular, has always been based on a public model, where the default modality is that all information is public unless you go to great lengths to conceal it.

Robert Scoble:

Whoa?!? Here’s the deal: I wish Facebook had NO PRIVACY AT ALL!
That’s called the open web
. I wish Google could index every word I write on Facebook.

If those high-profile bloggers think the open web is about spreading personal data across the web, then something went completely wrong in the past. My understanding of the open web always included these principles:

  • open standards
  • interoperability
  • transparency
  • data sharing

If you haven’t noticed it yet, those are – among others – some of the principles of, e.g. DataPortability.org and Kantara‘s UMA working group. And didn’t Mr Scoble join DataPortability.org more than two years ago? Maybe no one explained the concept to him.

I’m disappointed and angry. Of course, you could argue that those are just two voices. But they are influential and I doubt they are the only people who didn’t get it. Sad weekend.

Image by Thomas Hawk

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Ma.gnolia Is Back

Twitter

Some of the best things in life happen when you least expect them. Suddenly they are right here and you’re happy. That is especially true to things you loved dearly in the past but disappeared months before without warning. Like Ma.gnolia, the small but beautiful and elegant bookmarking service. Needless to say, the tweet by Ma.gnolia founder Larry Halff got me really excited.

I don’t want to recap the reasons why Ma.gnolia went offline earlier this year. Instead head over to CrunchGear and read the interview with Larry Halff or do some research yourself. You know, there are those really useful sites out there called search engines. ;)

It’s Social

Those of you who never heard about Ma.gnolia before may ask what’s so special about it. It’s only a social bookmarking service, right? And there’s Delicious, the grand daddy of social bookmarking.

Well, Ma.gnolia isn’t just storing all of your bookmarks. The real value of the service are its social features. There are groups dealing with all kinds of topics (well, currently there aren’t many as Ma.gnolia’s user base is still small after the relaunch but in the past there were countless), so you can see what other users think is relevant and interesting about the topics and issues you care or want to know more about.

Also I’m glad that one feature has survived: Giving thanks to other users for adding a bookmark to Ma.gnolia. They found an interesting link on the web, donated some time to add tags and maybe a description to it, so you can easily add it to your bookmark collection. Just show some appreciation for a great link. It’s the small things that make life great.

Open Standards

Since I’m a supporter of open standards, it’s great to know that Ma.gnolia is still relying on them. It supported many of them before its demise already.

You want to sign in to Ma.gnolia? Better have an OpenID. There is no way to sign in with a username and password. Also no Twitter logins, no Facebook Connect. Well, those login methods might be options to think about but I guess Larry Halff rather stays with more open methods like OpenID.

Also all important information is marked up with microformats, from user profiles, to contacts, to bookmarks, to tags,… Ma.gnolia has them all. Also users can subscribe to groups, tags, and people by RSS.

If you want to know more about the standards Ma.gnolia is using, have look at a small article I wrote about the topic last year. Most of them are still there.

If you think these standards are just some geeky additions, you might want to think again. When Ma.gnolia disappeared users couldn’t access the service anymore and their bookmarks were unavailable. But due to those standards users could find them elsewhere on the internet and restore at least a great part of them. That’s not replacing a backup strategy, of course. But if the bookmarks were hiding behind a walled garden, they were gone. All of them, forever. I’m using Delicious to back up my bookmarks, by the way.

The Not So Relevant Service for Readers

Alright, the headline is a joke but read on. If you’re using both Ma.gnolia and Google Reader you might want to add Ma.gnolia to the Send to list of Google Reader, so you can easily bookmark you favorite articles when reading your feed items. Just head over to the settings page of Google Reader and add the necessary information:

Google Reader

Currently users need to sign up for an invitation to Ma.gnolia. But please do yourself a favor and check it out. You might like it.

Update Oct 6: Since yesterday Ma.gnolia is just called Gnolia because another company is claiming the name.

Just drop the ma. everywhere (e.g. in your Google Reader settings) and you should be able to use Gnolia just like before. However if you use an OpenID Provider that supports directed identity (e.g. Yahoo! and Google) you have to re-associate your OpenID with Gnolia. Just go to http://gnolia.com/recover and recover your account. Delete the OpenID from your settings and re-associate it. In the case of directed identity the OpenID Provider issues a unique URL for each Relying Party. Ma.gnolia and Gnolia are seen as different websites by those providers.

Thanks to Larry Halff for providing fast support and dealing with this issue last night!

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The Wonders of PubSubHubbub

PubSubHubbub

Some of you probably noticed that I blogged again for the first time since about three months yesterday. Well, that’s not really the spectacular news, mind you. But it was the first time I could make use of PubSubHubbub which was released in the meantime. And I was blown away!

PubSubHubbub is a fancy new protocol, created by some clever folks at Google. Basically, it allows anyone that supports it to get feeds (Atom and RSS) more or less in real time. Blog authors don’t have to wait for their blog to be crawled again by feed aggregators and the like until their new articles are distributed to all their feed subscribers.

Among other services, Feedburner and Friendfeed support the protocol already. So when I hit the Publish button in WordPress yesterday I didn’t remember PubSubHubbub or even that those services support it. After publishing the article I wanted to inform my followers on Twitter about the new article. But much to my surprise there already was a tweet by me about it.

What happened? Well, actually, it’s pretty simple: Feedburner got pinged and its PingShot service notified Friendfeed. In my Friendfeed settings I enabled that entries from my blog will be sent directly to Twitter (forgot about that setting as well, as you can imagine). Voilà, all this happened in a few seconds, long before I could even tweet the blog post myself.

All I can say is, PubSubHubbub is awesome! Check it out if you can. Also if you don’t want to use Feedburner you can download a WordPress plugin that will do the same.

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Post Your Flickr Photos to Twitter

Flickr

Many people post photos to Twitter via services like TwitPic. Unfortunately, most of those services require the user’s Twitter username and password. And while most users know that it’s not a good idea to give passwords to third party services, many do it anyway, just for convenience sake.

Today photo sharing and hosting site Flickr announced a beta implementation which allows users to post photos from Flickr to Twitter. The service is easy to set up if you already have a Flickr account.

  1. Authorize Flickr to post to Twitter via OAuth
  2. Add 2twitter to your Flickr email and save it to your mobile phone (or remember it). It should look like this: yourflickremail2twitter@photos.flickr.com
  3. Take a picture, open your mobile phone’s email client, add a subject line – this will be your tweet’s text – and send to Flickr

It’s especially great to see Flickr supporting OAuth because FlickrAuth as part of Flickr’s API was certaily a blueprint for creating OAuth.

Well done!